Whole School Project

Invigorating learning and building community

The idea is that each school will take on a particular topic to study for three years. The whole school will be involved in the study. The topic might involve local phenomena—such as “plants and animals of the desert” if the school is in Alamogordo, New Mexico, “sheep farming” if it is in Walworth, New Zealand, “water resources” if it is in West Vancouver, Canada, “the Columbia River Gorge” if it is near Portland, Oregon, “the castle” if it is in Ludlow, England, or “the Yarra River” if it is in Melbourne, Australia, etc. Alternatively, it could involve quite distant things—such topics as “the Solar System”, or “desertification and attempts to combat it,” “ocean life,” “migrating animals,” and so on.

All students and all classes will be involved. The rest of the curriculum will continue much as it is, but some time will be given over in each curriculum area which contributes something to the accumulation of knowledge of the chosen topic, directed towards a large-scale final product. The “whole school project” can help achieve many of the year’s curriculum objectives in mathematics, science, art, history, and so on. Any teacher can choose to incorporated their curriculum aims into the project study, even when those aims also include meeting externally mandated achievement levels.

WSPs may seem a challenge to organize, yet in practice they can work relatively easily. In return for the effort of implementing such a project the educational value created is enormous, for students, teachers, administrators, and the community around the school.

For a full account of how a school can implement such a program see:

Whole School Projects:

Engaging Imaginations Through Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Kieran Egan with Bob Dunton & Gillian Judson

Pub Date: August 2014, 192 pages

“In this highly original book, iconic curriculum theorist and change agent Kieran Egan sets out a challenging but coherent alternative to the ways schools usually function. For just a few hours every week, all students undertake a Whole School Project together. Egan’s inspiring yet practical strategy will enable you to engage your students, ignite your colleagues, and deepen learning throughout the school. It’s a game changer for progressives and traditionalists alike.”

Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Lynch School of Education, Boston College

“I have used Egan’s imaginative tools extensively in the classroom and facilitated learners from kindergarten to grade 8 with their Learning in Depth projects, experiencing how engaged and deep the learning becomes.  Whole School Projects will continue to expand these proven exemplary practices or, if this is all new to you, it will be a wonderful place to begin!”

Shannon Shields, vice principal/SBTC, Salt Spring Island Middle School

“Kieran Egan is one of the thinkers on 21st-century learning who is not content to simply wave his hands in the air and invoke the magic of technology. He offers concrete proposals for student-centered learning that are workable in our current school environment.”

More . . .

Mark Classen, principal, Harrison Hot Springs Elementary School

“I just finished your book, Kieran. It makes me feel like I can breathe again as I imagine a whole school working together, freed of the shackles of walls, subjects, test-driven torture, isolation of age groups & harried teachers, not to mention fiercely pedaling administrators. I’m supposed to be “retired”, which I will never really be & hanker to get involved in some learning project driven by WONDER & DISCOVERY for ALL Your idea provides a beacon of light & openness in a tunnel-like, linear system, while being practical & grounded. Thank you for your inspiration. Now I wonder which way to step next on my journey.”

Margit Boronkay, M.Ed., SFU ’08

WSP News

Here is a simple list of some of the benefits that implementing this kind of project can achieve.

Whole school projects can:

  • Contribute powerfully to community building within the school––the project provides a distinct joint purpose for all members of the school community;
  • Build appreciation for the abilities of others;
  • Help students, teachers, and administrators discover how individual contributions to a coherent large-scale project can produce enormous results;
  • Enable everyone involved to recognize that all kinds of learning style and kinds of intelligence and ability-level can play an important part in constructing the whole;
  • Enable students to understand the gradual growth of something very big from many small contributions—“a stone upon a stone, a word upon a word”;
  • Encourage the development of school identity and cooperation skills in students of different social groups, skill levels, cultural backgrounds and classes;
  • Expose students to activities they might not otherwise experience and potentially foster new hobbies and interests;
  • Help students see how many different “subjects” in school work together or overlap when engaged on a large-scale interdisciplinary project;
  • Give pride in the visible product of the completed project, whether in the form of a book, a multi-media presentation, a mural in the school, or all of these or others forms in which the work of the whole group is made visible for them and presented to others, whether parents or school board officials, or other citizens, or all these.
  • Help students, teachers, and administrators discover how individual contributions to a large-scale project can give pride to all contributors for more than just their own individual contribution;

Please come back—we will be adding more material frequently as the WSP develops.